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Stroke Causes and Prevention

Stroke Causes and Prevention

Strokes are among the most prevalent medical disasters we face today. By some estimates, a stroke occurs somewhere in the U.S. every 40 seconds, which is why strokes are among the most common reasons for ER visits that we see.

To some extent, this is simply a reality that we face, at least in our own time. Strokes cannot be universally or definitively prevented. It is an unfortunate fact that they’re among the serious medical problems that vast portions of our population are most vulnerable to. However, we can significantly mitigate the risk by understanding stroke causes and prevention methods. As with so many things in medicine and illness, preemptive and preventative actions are the most crucial aspects of care.

With that in mind, we are going to explore some common stroke causes, stroke symptoms, and prevention methods.

Main Stroke Causes

Perhaps our biggest advantage in combating strokes is that we have a fairly thorough understanding of what causes them. That doesn’t mean they are always preventable, but it still makes for a very important start.

There are two main types of stroke that are important to understand:

Ischemic Stroke

Ischemic stroke is the most common type of stroke. It occurs when there are blockages that arise in arteries around the brain. The fundamental cause of this problem is called atherosclerosis, which is a disease of the arteries that causes a build-up of plaque in blood vessels. When the build-up blocks blood flow (such as in the carotid arteries in the neck), a stroke can occur.

Hemorrhagic Stroke

By contrast, a hemorrhagic stroke occurs when a blood vessel bursts on or near the brain and its surrounding membranes. The burst itself can be the result of numerous risk factors for stroke. We’ll delve into those further down the page.

Significant Risk Factors For Stroke

One thing that is helpful in understanding stroke causes and prevention is that both of the types just discussed have many of the same underlying risk factors.

Primary risk factors include high blood pressure, high cholesterol, smoking and alcohol abuse, diabetes, and assorted other underlying conditions (heart disease, artery diseases, etc.) or family history. While it is somewhat vague, it is also fair to say that generally poor health and nutritional habits also increase the risk of stroke, just as they make heart disease and heart attacks more likely.

Stroke Symptoms to Watch For

Unfortunately, one of the reasons that strokes are such a massive problem in modern healthcare is that there tend to be few if any warning signs. Incidentally, this is why it’s particularly important to be aware of the risk factors for stroke. These can be recognized and addressed for preventative purposes, whereas stroke symptoms don’t arise until a stroke is already happening.

That said, it is still extremely important to understand and recognize these symptoms so you can seek care (for yourself or another) as quickly as possible. The key symptoms to watch out for are:

  • Sudden weakness in the face or limbs (particularly if only one side of the body is affected)
  • Sudden confusion or a loss of speech
  • A severe headache that arises quickly and without apparent explanation
  • Sudden issues with vision
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Intense neck stiffness
  • Unexplained paralysis or numbness
Graphic showing the stroke symptoms to watch for and actions to take when symptoms arise.

Prevention Methods

As you can understand looking through risk factors and causes above, the best way to prevent a stroke — or at least lower the risk — is to practice what we generally understand to be “good health.” This means eating nutritional food, getting regular exercise, and avoiding harmful substances like tobacco or alcohol. It also means doing what you can to work adequate sleep into your schedule, as well as to minimize your stress.

All of that is easier said than done on your own, though. That is why another crucial aspect of prevention is listening to the advice of healthcare professionals. This is something that’s come up concerning nursing of late, with changes underway in what nurses in different roles are trained for. 

Listening to the Professionals

More registered nurses today are pursuing higher education through online channels even while practicing. Among the roles discussed for those making an RN-to-BSN online degree progression is “teaching,” “analyzing,” and “leading” — not only in hospitals and private practices but also in various community settings. What this means is that there is a growing focus on, among other things, nurses educating and advising patients. Accordingly, if you have risk factors for stroke that come up during a check-up, your nurse may well be in a position to advise you regarding your lifestyle and specific prevention methods.

You should of course listen to the expert advice of a doctor if you are concerned about your risk factors. Whether you have a family history, an unhealthy lifestyle, or a history of substance abuse, it is worth your while to schedule an appointment with your primary care physician. If you’re concerned, the doctor will help assess your risk and recommend changes you can make for preventative purposes.

Acting Quickly

To wrap up, we will also stress that it is important to act quickly. First and foremost, this has to do with prevention. If you have risk factors, they need to be addressed sooner than later. The longer they go unattended, the more severe complications can be.

Additionally, it is important to act quickly if symptoms arise or a stroke has occurred. Through both existing and emerging treatments, doctors have some power to treat strokes and in some cases decrease the likelihood of death or debilitating effects. The sooner a stroke victim gets to a doctor, the better his or her chances at recovery will be.

We hope that this information will help you recognize stroke causes and prevention methods. This is one of the most widespread threats we face in modern healthcare. Through understanding, action, and vigilance, we can all help to decrease the likelihood of strokes.

Guest Post Author: Allie Cooper